DHH Expands Access for Flu Vaccines
BATON ROUGE—The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has opened online registration for health care providers interested in administering the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine, expected to be available initially in limited quantities in October. Also, State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, M.D., has issued an order and protocol allowing Louisiana Board of Pharmacy-certified pharmacists to join doctors, hospitals, and local health departments in administering both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines. These important steps will help keep more people healthy, ensure more effective provision of influenza immunizations, and allow the state to better manage the 2009 flu season.
Seasonal Flu Vaccination Information
In years past, Louisianans could see their health care providers to receive either intranasal or injectable seasonal flu vaccinations or receive a vaccination from a board-certified pharmacist with a doctor’s prescription. The order executed by Dr. Guidry this week will allow board-certified pharmacists to administer seasonal flu vaccine without a doctor’s prescription, increasing access for residents statewide.
“It is very important that Louisianans go get their seasonal flu vaccination, especially residents in high-risk groups that are more susceptible to complications from the flu,” said DHH Secretary Alan Levine. “We lose more than 36,000 Americans a year to the seasonal flu. By allowing pharmacists to administer the vaccine, we increase access to seasonal flu vaccinations statewide, help prevent infection and needless illness in our citizens, and ease demand on our hospitals and other providers this flu season.”
H1N1 Flu Vaccination Information
This year, there is a second strain of flu, novel H1N1 flu, making its way through Louisiana and the rest of the world now, well before the peak of our state’s usual flu season.
The seasonal flu vaccine is not expected to protect against the 2009 H1N1 flu. As a result, a separate vaccination will be required to prevent individuals from catching H1N1 flu.
Initial supplies of the H1N1 flu vaccine are expected to become available in late October, or possibly even sooner, depending on manufacturing time and time needed to complete clinical trials to determine vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Doctors, hospitals, local health departments and board-certified pharmacists also will be able to administer the H1N1 flu vaccine when it becomes available, after registering with DHH to receive and administer the H1N1 vaccine. The H1N1 vaccine will be controlled and distributed by the federal government in partnership with states, and will not be available to providers through their distribution channels. Providers will also be asked to record administered vaccines in LINKS, the state’s immunization database and information system.
“The H1N1 vaccine provider registration process is a straightforward way to streamline the distribution process and strengthen communications with vaccination partners statewide,” Secretary Levine said. “Provider registration and use of LINKS will help ensure the success of our H1N1 vaccination program in the coming months.”
Manufacturers are working to make the vaccines available to all people who wish to be vaccinated. However, initial supplies are expected to be limited. As a result, vaccine administration will be recommended first for priority groups based upon those most at risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Dr. Guidry stated that these priority groups include people who are more likely to suffer complications from the H1N1 flu, including pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age (because infants can’t receive flu vaccines), direct care health care and emergency medical services personnel, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people from ages 25 through 64 years with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
Like with the seasonal flu, the order executed this week by Guidry will allow board-certified pharmacists to administer H1N1 flu vaccine without a doctor’s prescription, as long as pharmacists follow the protocol set up by the federal and state government. Providers with questions may contact the Louisiana Immunization Program at 877.799.9773.
DHH is continuing to monitor the progress of the H1N1 flu to alert the public to any significant changes that would impact the public's health. For more information on flu activity in Louisiana, including guidance for families and medical professionals, visit www.flula.com.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.